The new Slovenian 1. Liga season gets going this weekend and the fixture computer could hardly have produced a more spectacular start to the campaign, with titleholders NK Maribor due to host last year's runners-up NK Gorica on Saturday.
Having kept the core of their squad together – not least prolific striker Marco Tavares and captain Zoran Pavlovič – record eight-time champions Maribor look to be favourites to repeat last season's success. Coach Darko Milanič has an exciting crop of young players coming through as well, and his charges certainly looked to be in good shape during last week's Super Cup against Slovenian Cup holders NK IB Ljubljana at the Ljudski Vrt stadium, winning 3-2 after extra-time. Scoring goals proved more challenging in Wednesday's UEFA Champions League second qualifying round opener at FC WIT Georgia, however, the visitors having to settle for a 0-0 draw against ten men.
Gorica have also begun competitive action early, beating FC Lahti 1-0 in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League second qualifying round tie on Thursday. The mission for the four-time champions, who last lifted the trophy in 2005/06, will be to carry on from where they left off last term, when they finished seven points back. Holding on to 2008/09 league top scorer Etien Velikonja will prove crucial to their prospects, though, but for now the 20-year-old remains a Gorica player.
Also likely to challenge at the top are IB Ljubljana, who enjoy the backing of wealthy president Jože Pečečnik and are targeting the league crown after cup glory in the past two seasons. New signings Enow Juvette Tabot, Aleš Kokot and Danijel Brezič have been recruited to boost the capital outfit's bid, while UEFA Europa League aspirants NK Rudar Velenje have picked up Bostjan Kreft, Mirza Mešić, Darko Djukič and Tim Lo Duca. Rudar take on NK Nafta Lendava on Sunday, with IB Ljubljana facing an eagerly awaited derby against promoted neighbours NK Olimpija Ljubljana to get their own campagn started.
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